Putting the coy into coitus: sex manual for ultra-Orthodox Jews aims not to offend

IN THE beginning (of the 1970s) there was Dr Alex Comfort’s groundbreaking The Joy of Sex, which included having nookie on a moving motorcycle and humping on horseback, two practices removed in later editions for health and safely reasons.

Then, in 2003, came another explicit and controversial offering from Terry Sanderson (yep, THAT Terry) called The Gay Man’s Kama Sutra.

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Now we have The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy, which has no illustrations ‘cept some rudimentary drawings of faceless folk concealed in a sealed envelope at the back of the book.

According to this BBC report, that’s been done in order to give minimal offence to its target audience: ultra-Orthodox Jews. If they are too squeamish to look at them, they can rip off the envelope and throw it away.

It’s the brainchild of Jerusalem-based therapist Dr David Ribner, who had to be ultra-cautious in dealing with the subject of sex for a group that insists that boys and girls are educated separately, and have little interaction with the opposite sex until their marriage night, when they are expected to consummate their union.

Dr David Ribner

Dr David Ribner

Physical touch with the opposite sex – even something like a handshake – is only permitted with one’s spouse and close family members. Access to films and the internet is often restricted too.

The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy, which Ribner co-wrote with Orthodox researcher Jennie Rosenfeld, starts with the very basics – explaining, for example, how the body shape of men and women differs.

Ribner says Judaism regards sex as something positive, but it has become taboo to discuss it openly.

Sex is only appropriate within a marital context. Beyond that it’s not talked about. Because of that, it’s become very difficult for people to have any kind of dialogue about it.

In Israel’s Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox community, there are manuals written for brides and grooms-to-be, to help guide them on the subject of intimacy in married life, but they employ allegorical, vague terminology and no explicit how-to instructions on matters of sexual intercourse. So Ribner’s book enters uncharted territory.

Ribner said of the illustrations:

We wanted to give people a sense of not only where to put their sexual organs, but where to put their arms and legs. If you have never seen a movie, never read a book, how are you supposed to know what you do?

The book is direct in its language and touches on subjects that may be uncomfortable for some, including oral sex and masturbation.

When the Hebrew edition is released in a few weeks’ time, it could create quite a storm, says Menachem Friedman, a professor and sociologist who has written numerous books on Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community.

I suspect it will meet tremendous negative reaction – at least within the most extreme elements of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

But he agrees that such a book is sorely needed, and foresees brisk behind-the-counter sales .

Hat tip: BarrieJohn